Audio Roundup CXLI

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by Joel Rich

From a recent Wall Street Journal Article – Have you noticed these trends in your circles? Also is the beit avel a social scene (perhaps excepting those speaking directly to the avel?)

A funeral is a solemn rite of passage, and since the days of ancient civilization, the eulogy has been a speech of good words for the dead.
That’s changing, say funeral directors, clergy and theologians. Even amid tragedy, today’s eulogy increasingly includes anecdotes that point to the deceased’s foibles and quirks, offering a nuanced character sketch. “More often, people are saying, ‘Let’s be realistic about this person,” says Hari P. Close, a funeral director who worked with the McNeely family…….
Just as more weddings are officiated by friends and relatives, mourners increasingly are turning to friends and family to speak at funerals. People are also less likely than ever to have personal relationships with members of the clergy. A rabbi or minister might welcome the mourners and give a eulogy that puts an individual’s death into the context of broader religious canon. The clergy may also discuss the official resumé of the deceased, naming family members and schooling, and then turn to family or friends to speak……………
When Lauren Winner, an assistant professor at Duke University’s divinity school, served as a lay member of a ritual committee at a Charlottesville, Va., Episcopal church, the priest said he wanted to prohibit non-clergy eulogies. Funerals were getting long with so many eulogies, he said. Ms. Winner told him that had her family not been permitted to speak when her mother died, it would have alienated some of the family from the church, Ms. Winner says. The priest saw her point and backed down.

In a recent thread Michael Rogovin commented:

Who decides that a rabbi is sufficiently expert in a particular area? What if there are disagreements among scholars or different sub-communities? How does one judge the expertise in secular matters that impact on the factual elements of a halachic decision? Is it better to have specialized expertise or a broad world view – which produces better results, or is it best to have a combination (cf to medicine)?
One should certainly find a qualified person to answer one’s questions, one who knows his (or her) limits and who to go to for an expert opinion. Where we disagree (if we do) it may be who gets to decide who the experts are.

I was struck by a recent study on a very related topic, any thoughts on the applicability to rabbinic decision making?:

Isaiah Berlin once quoted the Greek poet Archilochus to distinguish between two types of thinkers: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin admired both ways of thinking, but Tetlock borrowed the metaphor to account for why some experts fared better. The least accurate forecasters, he found, were hedgehogs: “thinkers who ‘know one big thing,’ aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains” and “display bristly impatience with those who ‘do not get it,’ ” he wrote. Better experts “look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things,” “are skeptical of grand schemes” and are “diffident about their own forecasting prowess.”

  • Rabbi Uri Orlian -Ma’aser Kesafim

    Starts with the question I’m jumping off with for this year’s Yahrtzeit drasha (see: link) how do you understand the seeming contradiction between “Lo Tinasu” (don’t test H KB”H) and “uvchanuni – vharikoti” (test me [in maaser] and I’ll send you unlimited blessing). So what if someone doesn’t get rich? Lack of faith!? [see the text above for other/better answers].
    Then a discussion of the scope and force of maaser ksafim. To be continued.

  • Rav Pini Cohen-Halachic Process of the Seder

    Some hints for making kid friendly/educational Pesach preparations and seder – includes at home, at friends and at hotels.

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky -Electricity on Shabbas and Yom Tov

    This one’s for my friend, and recent Oleh, Harold Z., it’s ironic how you never know what things you say that someone will always remember (although R’Sobolofsky did confirm the part about the gedolim don’t always get the physics right!).
    Here an analysis of the basic shitot on electricity/lights and their implications for both Shabbat and Yom Tov.

  • Rabbi Jeffrey Saks -Preparing for Chinuch Careers in Israel

    “Boots on the ground” update on rabbinic careers in Israel. Bottom line: network early and often, get all the experience you can, understand the system, be flexible and be prepared to make aliyah without anyone making a commitment to you.
    Interesting comment on development of pulpit rabbi type position in Israel.

  • Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh -Machshava 18 – Tzadik veRa lo 1

    Approaches to why the righteous suffer (see my intro to #140 for my take) as found in Chazal and later authorities. (Me – this would be an interesting survey – how many people think about this at all and what % resonate with each possible answer.)

  • Rabbi Moshe Taragin -5 stages of redemption

    Analysis of Tzeih U’lmad section as a key element of seder – showing greater meaning of makot and HKB”H’s continual intervention in the world and lessons to be learned.

  • Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller -The Seder Night: Inspiring and Involving our Children

    A quick review of halachic seder issues (e.g. amount of wine needed…)

  • Rabbi Mayer E. Twersky -Shomer Negiah and the problem of evil

    Explanation of the wisdom of Torah/Chazal in setting boundaries for holiness – control points prior to inflamed desires. Then 30 seconds on why bad things happen to good people.

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Jewelry with Pesukim and Shem Hashem

    Psukim (scriptural passages) with and without Hashem’s name on them – Can you have them on jewelery? (Issues – bathroom/shower).
    Covering them may help or if they are only sentence fragments it may be OK.
    In passing, R’Aryeh quotes the Malbin on silver trimmings to a tallit something like “mah inyan kesef etzel tzitzit?” but apparently there must be an answer (and not just for Chassidim where the practice started).

  • Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky -Social Media’s Impact on Interpersonal Relationships, Dating and Family Life

    If you’ve got it, flaunt it (not) – keep special relationships special by not having everyone know everything. Even “only simchas” and blogs can lead to jealousy, lashon hara and the like [me – no one has to know my business – good or bad].

  • Rabbi David Hirsch -The Halachos of Gambling

    Review of Talmudic opinion on gambling plus practical halachic and hashkafic applications.

  • Rabbi Yona Reiss -The Role of Women in Halacha

    Broad analysis of women’s roles in halacha given changing circumstances. Much revolves around definition of srarah (authority), includes opinions regarding women’s learning, Kaddish. The major point is that there is a tremendous focus on striking the proper balance between tradition and innovation and seeing the future implications of any decision. (Boy, that sounds easy!)

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb -The Authority and Responsibility of the Gabbai Tzedakah

    Thoughts on Srarah (authority) and status of gabbai tzedekah – it used to be a role of srarah but probably not anymore. Do you have to take the job if offered? How much pressure can a gabbai put on givers? Can you pledge more than you intend to give (in order to encourage others?).
    You are permitted to honor donors to inspire others and give hakarat hatov but be careful it doesn’t turn into Chanifa (false flattery).
    [And as Bob L knows I would say in Joel land: You don’t have to do everything you are permitted to!]

  • Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf – Taharah Beyond Taharat ha-Mishpaha: History, Halakhah and Aggadah

    Tracing attitudes towards tahara (ritual purity) in Eretz Yisrael, Bavel and beyond (especially Ashkenaz). Apparently a deeply held, gut level abhorrence of ritual impurity was transmitted in certain genealogical lines.

  • Rabbi Mordechai I. Willig -The Dialectics of the Seder: An Innovative Approach to Mitzvot ha’Laila

    Analysis of Pirsumei Nisa on 4 cups of wine and some specific applications with regard to chiyuv for women. R’Willig feels “af heim hayui b’oto hanes” for women’s inclusion in Karban Pesach is the torah model followed for rabbinic enactments of a similar nature (col d‘tikkun rabannan kein duraita).

  • Rabbi Ezra Schwartz – Heating Food on Shabbat: Plata

    R’Willig’s psak that you can take dry food from the refrigerator on Shabbat and put it on the platta (no temperature control) since there’s no choteh (can’t control temp) or mechzei (no one cooks on it). R’Schwartz sounds fine with hachzara.

  • Rav Aharon Kahn -Qualifications to rule in Jewish Law and the prohibition of teaching Torah to a gentile

    Review of nature of psak from Rambam, Shulchon Aruch and Shach – you gotta know it all to be in it! Issur on you not to teach Akum Torah is separate from his issur to learn and it’s not simply an issue of Lifnei Iver.

  • About Joel Rich

    Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.


    1. “Wall Street Journal Article – Have you noticed these trends in your circles?”
      Sadly yes
      “Also is the beit avel a social scene (perhaps excepting those speaking directly to the avel?)”
      Sadly yes-I wish that thsoe speaking to the avel at least would not treat it like a social scene.

    2. Of course some eulogies by some clergymen are nauseating-I attended one recently where a moderate chareidi Rabbi went into the classic chareidi crying act at funerals-he sounded worse than normal people do at r’l their own parents. On train going to shiva call met someone who was at levayah said the same thing the chareid phony excessive crying shtick-butI saw reason-child of person who died said Rabbi X spoke from the heart. Of course, the heart is that he maybe will miss this guys money-but children like to believe the act is genuine so some unscrupolous rabbis might act like that.

    3. “Issur on you not to teach Akum Torah is separate from his issur to learn and it’s not simply an issue of Lifnei Iver. ”

      For halacha lemaaseh see maasei Rav -the Rav spoke at a Catholic seminary in Brightom Mass-the text did not have the Gemarrahs cited -but when speech was published in Tradition the footnotes refer to the Gemarrahs underlying the speech.

    4. The link for R’ Schwartz’s shiur on using a plata on Shabbos is either incorrect or dead.

    5. Bkitzur nimratz-R’YBS taught the 2 functions of the maspid are to describe who the person was and how much he will be missed-seems like if done right, those closest are the best to do.

    6. In recent years my and my wife’s grandmothers passed away. These women were all pious and wonderful. But at my grandmother’s levaya one rav portrayed her as a Chareidi rebbetzin. Bubby a”h began wearing a wig when she was 60. And she still put on a doily in shul, probably because she didn’t want anyone to know she was wearing a sheitel. She had pride. Another rav took the opportunity to derided feminists and professional women, since my grandmother was born in 1920 and (as far as he knew) was a traditional homemaker. My professional sisters really loved that hesped. At my wife’s grandmother’s levaya the rav, who maybe met her three times, took the opportunity to give a sermon about tznius, evidently since he knew nothing about her.

    7. I – At the recent funeral I attended the clergy-speaker(who knew the deceased for a long time) said maybe two things that were not (1) true of basically everyone and/or (2) not true of the deceased. I was appalled. But apparently it is common. At the same time, especially given the practice of having funerals ASAP, it can be very difficult for those who were close to come up with something appropriate (especially for an unexpected death), and children, especially, would often do better to exercise their right to remain silent.

      Re: shiva, the observation re: socialization is unfortunately accurate I think. It is complicated because sometimes avelim encourage it as a form of coping/denial, but I do think that cross-talk and social reunions not even directed at the avel are always inappropriate.

      II – The tendency to say that all women were super-tsnius tehillim-saying non-uppity eshes chayils is something others have noted to me, and I think is the natural product of a society in which there is only one way to be a “good woman.”

    8. PS – the one-way-to-be-a-good-person problem exists for men too. My yeshivish relatives fall over themselves to tell me what a talmid chacham my grandfather a”h was. Well, I never met him, but from what I hear from my parents he was indeed quite holy and did a lot of chessed, but talmid chacham he was not.

    9. “Review of nature of psak from Rambam, Shulchon Aruch and Shach – you gotta know it all to be in it!”

      Clearly not Yoreh Yoreh doesn’t pretend to be an expert in Yadin Yadin. Certainly most aren’t expert in Kodashim and mitzvot that aren’t noheg bazamn hazeh.

    10. “At the same time, especially given the practice of having funerals ASAP, it can be very difficult for those who were close to come up with something appropriate (especially for an unexpected death), ”

      Not difficult if the clergyman meets with the relatives before the levayah and finds out enough information which he should do anyway.

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